C.W. Gusewelle is away this week. His regular column will return. In the meantime, here is one of his favorites.
The mornings were rainy, the afternoons clear and fresh, the nights cool. In the deep of summer, days like those are gifts.
Best of all, there was no melancholy.
There have been occasions in these last years, all alone in the cabin at the edge of the woods, when the shadows of people and times past have been too many. But this was one of those rare chances for both daughters to come with me, so the place was fine.
The jigsaw puzzle we’d assembled on a cold evening last winter still was on the table. We broke it back into its 1,000 pieces to be saved for another time. The pond gave up its fish. Afterward, we burned some chicken haunches on the grill, turning them by flashlight. In the meadow just north of the cabin woods, coyotes set up a racket of yipping and giggling in the dark.
We talked a while. Then slept. And in the morning we made a project of cleaning out and rearranging our fishing tackle boxes — remembering, as one always does, the fish that came to certain lures, and where that water was, and how the curve of the reed bed lay against the shore, and if the day was blistering or chill.
It’s a humble place, that little retreat of ours — the cabin small and rude, the beds miserable, the plumbing delicate and undependable. The pictures on the walls contain good moments, though. The faces in them are ones we’ve cared the most about. The lane that bends from the porch down through the oak forest to the little lake has been traveled on foot so many times, beginning when I was hardly more than a boy, that I can follow it unerringly, even in the dark of the moon.
The last morning we fished a creek — got worm slime on our hands, saw several great blue herons rising from the shallows, got chigger bites and ticks, caught poison ivy, dug wildflowers to put in the garden at home, then drove the highway back.
I’m surprised to find how little there is to tell, and yet these primitive amusements so filled two days and part of a third that it seemed we’d been weeks and a great distance away.
As life progresses, time gets to be of great concern. Weeks and months pass unremarked, becoming years, the years resolving into sudden decades. Much human ingenuity is devoted to trying to halt the rush.
Some say work’s the answer, but I disagree. Work can surely make a day seem endless. It does nothing to slow the larger clock. Others put their faith in running shoes and dietary fiber, thinking those will enable them to cheat mortality a bit.
Personally, I favor sloth and idleness — attributes that command their proper respect in that stretch of woodland to which we from time to time repair. If ever I’m too conscious of the ring of time closing, that’s where I mean to go.
I’ll unplug the radio, disconnect the phone, give the typewriter to anyone who’ll have it and devote myself to singing with the spring toads, baying with the hounds in fall and listening to the woodbox mice in winter while I assemble the jigsaw puzzle yet again.